French agency to take final call on loan for Kochi metro by November-end

Piling on Kochi Metro’s first civil works’ site on MG Road is all set to begin this weekend. On Thursday, the Chennai Silks-Hotel Abad Plaza stretch on MG Road was barricaded and traffic limited to one lane. Though metro stakeholders stated that civil works along the Madhava Pharmacy Junction-Jos Junction portion of MG Road could be completed in six months’ time, sources said it might take more time.

This is because the earlier plan was to complete the construction of the viaduct over the arterial road in a single stretch. Now, work is likely be carried out simultaneously in different places.

The ongoing work will not severely affect traffic movement as vehicles can use Chitoor Road and Shanmugham Road – located parallel to MG Road. Parking has been banned on either side of the piling site.

After dithering for a while over permitting barricading of the 175-metre stretch, the traffic police finally agreed to DMRC’s plans, after a meeting held with senior KMRL officials on Thursday.

DMRC’s Principal Advisor E. Sreedharan visited the northern end of the proposed piling site on Thursday, within a few hours of the barricades being placed. Soma Constructions is engaged in constructing the metro’s viaduct from international stadium up to Ernakulam South.

Though there is concern at the delay in acquiring land to widen narrow portions of MG Road, sources said this would be done simultaneously with the civil works, to cause least inconvenience to road users. Electric posts and other utilities too will be shifted likewise. However, there is concern at Kochi Corporation’s unwillingness to widen Rajaji Road and its narrow bell mouth in front of Abad Plaza Hotel.

Though there were plans to divert KSRTC buses through AL Jacob overbridge, this might not materialise soon as a few cents of GCDA land, currently being used as pay-and-park lot, is yet to be acquired.

French loan

In a related development, the French agency AFD is likely to make a final commitment on giving a Rs.1,600 crore- loan to the metro by November end. The final appraisal mission led by Alain Ries, Head of the transport and energy division (Paris), along with Xavier Hoang, urban transport expert and Project Manager for Kochi metro (Paris), and Gautier Kohler, Project Coordinator (India), had detailed discussions regarding the progress on different aspects of the project. They expressed satisfaction on the progress of surveys and studies associated with the project.

The team held discussions on the progress on land acquisition, construction works, procurement plan and financial analysis. They also had deliberations with KMRL on the initiatives taken on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA).

During their three-day mission, the AFD team had a quick site inspection and spent the rest of the time to understand the progress in social impact study, relief and rehabilitation policy, TOD plan. They held discussions with stakeholders of UMTA, whose chairman is KMRL’s MD Elias George.

“The discussions with the AFD team have been extremely satisfying, and the loan approval would hopefully be communicated to KMRL by the year-end,” Mr George said. He expressed satisfaction about the AFD team’s willingness to provide separate technical assistance for preparing a workable action plan for the realisation of UMTA on the ground.

Road map

Mr. George said the French team had sought a road map for UMTA and TOD, within three months’ time. “Our consultants will prepare the road map.”

He said the project’s ‘financial closure’ (assurances on funding) would hopefully be over by early December.

KMRL has already assigned agencies for preparing reports on traffic survey, social impact, rehabilitation policy and TOD plan. The delegation is expected to submit their report by October so their board can take a decision in November 2013.

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